The fear caused by an imitation firearm could be as psychologically-damaging as fear caused by the real thing, University of Tasmania firearms researcher Samuel Diprose-Adams says.
Mr Diprose-Adams' comments come in the wake of a decision by Tasmania Police Firearms Services to ban gel blasters and demand that owners hand them in.
Gel blaster owners are up in arms about the order and have accused Tasmania Police of misleading them about the issue.
Tasmania Police say that gel blasters can be easily mistaken for a real firearm which makes them available for use in crime.
But Mr Diprose-Adams said there were two competing sides to the debate.
"The first is that toy guns can be misused by criminals and cause fear and panic in society," he said.
"That is a valid argument because we see that consistently in scholarly literature and in case law."
He said a libertarian argument was equally as valid saying that freedom to enjoy toy guns should not be curtailed by potential misuse by adults.
Recently a George Town man had a gel blaster and pointed it down the street frightening a resident who called police.
"There is fear that these objects can be misused by criminals and that can cause fear and panic in society," Mr Diprose-Adams said.
He said it was not really relevant whether the weapon was later found to have been a replica or a toy firearm.
"It does not really lessen the degree of fear," he said.
"Someone who is a victim of gun crime at the hands of a real firearm, as opposed to an imitation firearm, can be similarly impacted.
"The fear for your life does not really change when you learn after the fact that it is an imitation firearm."
Mr Diprose-Adams said the issue of imitation and toy guns fell within a broader issue in society involving freedom and security.
"There are two questions: How are toy guns different to other types of firearms and secondly do toy guns still have a place in our communities?"
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